By John Sonmez December 29, 2016

All The Books I Read In 2016

It’s that time again where I go through all the book I read this year and give you a short review of each one.

This year, I read a whopping 72 books!

Yes, that's crazy, I know.

I was a bit shocked when I compiled the list myself and found that there were that many books–especially since I read some of them more than once.

That's why I decided to create this blog post to list all the books I read this past year. And don't worry… If you don't like to read, that's ok. I've also recorded a video with the same books you'll find on this list:

How did I do it, you may ask?

Or perhaps you just don’t believe me.

Understandable–that’s a lot of books.

No, I didn’t “speed read” them or just skim the books.

No, I didn’t read summaries of all these books — I actually read them.

Well, listened to them — at least many of them.

This year, I started running 40+ miles a week.

Yes, I know that is crazy as well, but that’s how I “read” many of these books.

I utilized my Audible.com account to listen to the audio versions of the books, mostly at 3x speed. (3x speed may seem unintelligible to you, but you can work your way up to it if you slowly increase the speed and you can give absolute focus–that’s why running works so well).

If you haven’t already signed up for an Audible.com subscription, do it now–seriously, it will be one of the best decision you make in your life.

I also listen to books whenever I am walking somewhere or driving in the car.

And, of course, I read books on my Kindle just about every night.

I did discover this year that trying to listen to audiobooks while lifting weights didn’t work out too well for me, because it was too difficult to focus, so I spend that time listening to podcasts instead.

(Check out my ultimate list of software development podcasts if are looking for some good programming podcasts.)

Previous years and other resources

Also, you might notice some themes, like books I read this year that had to do with masculinity.

I get obsessed with certain subjects and do a large amount of research, reading every book I can find on the subject, from time to time.

This year, I got several questions from YouTube subscribers who were dealing with women problems, so I did some research–this many “strange” books in the mix this year.

Ok, without further adieu, here are the books, arranged by theme:

Enjoy!

Fiction

1) The Magician’s Nephew

books

I’ve just finished reading this to my 5-year-old daughter–trying to go through the classics with her. This book is the first in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Great stuff.

2) The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

Also from the Chronicles of Narnia. This one needs no introduction–it’s the most recognizable book in the series. Brings back some good childhood memories from the older Narnia cartoons.

3) Snow Crash

This is supposed to be one of the best fiction books for programmers, but I’m not quite feeling it. I don’t usually do fiction, so this is slightly disappointing.

4) Ender’s Game

I’ve never watched the movie (and probably never will), but I thought this was a pretty good book! It’s fun. I loved the ending. I might read the rest of the series, but overall this was good fiction for me.

5) Flatland

This was fun. It mixes in a bit of religion and politics, but it’s main theme is that you can’t understand what you can’t perceive. It warps your mind, jumping from 2-dimensions to 3, 4 and 5 dimensions. Flatland is currently in the public domain.

6) God’s Debris

Man, this was such a good book. It’s written by Scott Adams (i.e. the Dilbert Guy). This one will blow your mind. It’s entertaining, but it will twist and contort your mind in the process. The book is about a guy conversing with God. It’s meant to be a thought experiment, but it goes way beyond that.

Masculinity

7) How to Be a 3% Man

This talks about being the kind of man that attracts women, with most of the material taken from various sources. There’s some good stuff in here, but some of the stories don’t seem very believable. If I were to give some advice on this one, I’d say skip the book and look directly at the sources.

8) The Rational Male

A book all guys should read. It delves into the situations the modern male faces today, particularly with regards to masculinity and red pill psychology. Women might find it a good read as well.

9) The King Within

Another book I read on the theme of masculinity. There are four archetypes in Jungian psychology: the King, the Warrior, the Magician, and the Lover. This book explores the King archetype. It’s a bit of a difficult read — do be warned. If you’re exploring masculinity and femininity I’d recommend taking a look at Jungian psychology in general.

10) The Game

This is a classic book on pickup artists. It’s not a book for those looking for a list of tips and tricks. Rather, it explores the community, culture and psychology of pickup artists, and gives you a feeling for why the community has moved away from the whole ‘tips and tricks’ approach. For men still looking for a shortcut in the dating game, I recommend you read this and find out why that approach doesn’t cut it anymore.

11) Iron John

A good book on the mythology of man. Sort of like a Joseph Campbell book. It talks about the story of man, and how it relates to masculinity, the coming of age and the process in which one goes through to become a real man in society.

12) Gorilla Mindset

It’s a short book by Mike Cernovich. Smart guy with a good mindset. The book is fairly basic–more of a beginner’s book for men. But if you take a look at his blog posts, you’ll find more in-depth material.

13) The Way of Men

Another book all men should read. It talks about what it means to be a man and what it means to be masculine. It’s quite a unique read–you don’t find a lot of these kinds of books out there.

14) Mate

This was amusing. It’s written by a guy who previously preached the merits of being an asshole to attract women. This book is like his ‘come-to-Jesus’ turnaround, where instead he talks about being nice as a strategy. I call bullshit–it feels like he’s trying to change his image rather than offer actual advice.

15) What Do Women Want?

This was slightly scary. I don’t agree 100% with everything inside, but it’s a book all men should take a look at. If anything, it’ll make you think about things in more depth.

16) No More Mr. Nice Guy

A good introduction for guys who want to stop being nice. Being nice isn’t really what you want to do (this doesn’t mean you should be an asshole). This book talks about the story of a guy who went from being nice to being a confident masculine character.

17) The Way of the Superior Man

Fair warning: the audio and written version are different. I listened to the audio version–it’s from a seminar. I recommend the Kindle version, though this wasn’t bad either.

18) Becoming a Barbarian

If you have a problem with political correctness, you’ll love this book. It’s about masculinity, but more about how to function as a man and not get sucked into the culture of political correctness.

19) The Rational Male – Preventive Medicine

This is the follow-up to The Rational Male. I didn’t like this one as much. It’s still a good book, but not groundbreaking compared to the first.

20) Grow Up: A Man’s Guide to Masculine Emotional Intelligence

This was interesting. It’s a bit too light — not that hard hitting. It feels like a mix of masculinity and Eastern philosophy. There’s definitely some good stuff about building yourself up, but it’s a bit watered down.

21) King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine

More Jungian philosophy. I think it’s a good model to understand masculinity and a good read for both men and women.

22) The Way of the Superior Man: A Spiritual Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Women, Work, and Sexual Desire

This is the written version of number 58 on this list. The first chapter itself is awesome, discussing how things in life are never ‘done’, so you just have to live life and carry on. A lot of people are going to hate this book, but I’d recommend it–there’s some good stuff here.

Habits & Personal Development

23) Boundaries

I like this one. It delves a bit into Christian theology, but don’t let that scare you off. The book talks about personal boundaries, putting expectations/obligations on others, and in turn, accepting expectations/obligations from others. I think a lot of people struggle with this, particularly with family. I strongly recommend this.

24) The Energy Bus

A good gift for a negative person! The book gives some solid philosophy for life, all spun together with a story-format.

25) Living with a Seal

This book kicked my ass so hard, I ran a full marathon a week later. It’s a somewhat chronological account of a guy who (as the title suggests) had a Navy SEAL live with him and train him hardcore for 30 days. A pretty inspirational punch in the gut.

26) Triggers

This book is about changing your habits and behavior. The main takeaway I got from this is that your environment exerts a huge influence on your behavior and ‘triggers’. Pretty decent book–it explains why you do what you do, and how to stop that.

27) Extreme Ownership

I have mixed thoughts on this. Extreme Ownership is about leadership and ownership from a Navy SEALs perspective. I was hoping they would offer a more ‘tactical’ viewpoint, but I still appreciated the concepts and stories inside.

28) The Compound Effect

Main takeaway: things add up. They might not seem to be doing much, but over time, all your daily rituals add up. A few people recommended this to me because they thought it resembled my strategy in life. Upon reading it, I can confirm: Yep, my life strategy is the Compound Effect.

29) The Power of Ambition

This is actually an audio program. It’s a bit long, but it delves into some good detail and goes through areas of personal development and self-help that I believe are worth understanding. Would recommend.

30) How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

Another Scott Adams book. His way of structuring life somewhat mirrors my own–can’t believe I didn’t discover him earlier. It’s an excellent book on the philosophy for life and putting systems in place to make you successful.

31) Way of the Peaceful Warrior

A lot of people recommended this to me. It was a fun read–it takes a story and uses it to tell a philosophy. It has a good ending as well.

32) Grit

I thought this would actually be about ‘grit’, but it turned out to be more of a psychology pop science book. In the last few chapters, the author veers off the research and goes more on her intuition. I actually found these parts more valuable. Overall, I’m not too impressed with this one.

33) Action Strategies for Personal Achievement

Very comprehensive, but if you’ve read Maximum Achievement (from the same author), you might not get as much out of it.

34) Deep Work

I was anticipating this book for a while but was slightly disappointed when it finally came out. I would’ve found it more useful if I weren’t already practicing most of the advice within it. It didn’t go into as much depth as I’d like either. I’d imagine others might still find it a good read.

35) Choose Yourself

James Altucher is an awesome guy, and I loved this book. Great nuggets of wisdom in this.

36) Smarter Faster Better

This is from the same guy who wrote The Power of Habit. This wasn’t too good–he angled it too much off his own success. There is some good psychology inside it, but overall it didn’t quite rub off well with me.

37) The Way of the Seal

By Mark Divine, a Navy SEAL himself. Talks a lot about mindset, though I don’t agree with it completely. I wouldn’t say it’s a must-read either, but if you’re into that kind of thing, you’ll find some valuable bits inside.

38) The Essence of Success

A classic self-development program. Really good information with a good philosophy of life.

39) Ego is the Enemy

A lot of people like this book, but I don’t quite feel it. I felt it was more like an apology for the author’s own ego and mistakes he made, but isn’t widely applicable. Don’t be mistaken, there are some great lessons in this book, and I’m a huge fan of the author, but it feels like it’s missing something.

40) Unlimited Power: The New Science Of Personal Achievement

A book by Tony Robbins. Not as strong as his other book, Awaking the Giant Within, but still a good book, especially if you’re a fan of his. Speaking of which, if you’re only going to read one Tony Robbins book, I say go with Awaking the Giant Within.

41) The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

By Mark Manson, who I think is a pretty swell guy. His blog is great and has some good stuff, but this book missed the mark for me. It felt like an overdose of exclamation marks and attempts to be funny all the time. The content is great, but the delivery felt flat.

42) A New Earth

A good psychology for life. I don’t agree with everything inside this, but it’s good if you want to grow as a person. I think this is better than Eckhart’s other book, The Power of Now.

Power, Negotiation & Persuasion

43) The Like Switch

I thought this was okay. It’s written by an FBI negotiator and talks about getting people to like you. It starts strong but loses steam later on. The first few chapters are worth reading, but you’re probably better off getting the CliffsNotes on this one.

44) Never Split the Difference

One of my favorite books of 2016. This was also written by an FBI hostage negotiator. It offers great insights into negotiations, particularly from an emotional rather than strategic viewpoint. I’ve read it twice, and I might just add it to my perennial reading list — it’s that good.

45) Pre-Suasion

I was expecting this to be awesome, but it wasn’t quite that awesome. It gave a few good tactics in the beginning. Then in the end, it degenerated into a sermon on why you shouldn’t use the tactics for bad, but why he included it anyway… That stuff didn’t really need to be there.

46) Trump The Art of The Deal

Whether you love or hate him, I say read this book. It’s a great way to understand Trump, his character, where he comes from and what he’s about. I found this pretty insightful, I think you will too.

47) Made to Stick

This book is about what stories stick in people’s heads. Great if you’re into marketing and you want to master the story-format.

48) 33 Strategies of War

A book by one of my favorite authors, Robert Greene. Listening to the audio version was challenging as Greene writes at a very high-level with frequent use of dates and times. It’s still a great book with good strategies to apply in life, but I wouldn’t opt for the audio version.

49) Art of Seduction: An Indispensible Primer on the Ultimate Form of Power

Another Robert Greene book. The title may mislead you–it’s actually about seduction throughout history and the types of seduction employed. It’s a good book if you want to understand human psychology. Very applicable in real life.

50) Introducing NLP: Psychological Skills for Understanding and Influencing People

If you haven’t read a book on NLP, this will give you a good background on it. I was somewhat familiar with it already, but this gave me a better grounding. Overall good introduction to NLP.

Business & Entrepreneurship

51) Tools of Titans

This one’s from Tim Ferriss. Given that I listen to his podcast, I’ve seen some of the stuff here already. You might want to bear that in mind. Nevertheless, I see this more as a good reference to have–seeing what the best experts in each field are saying, nicely compartmentalized into this one book.

52) The Effective Executive

I’d say this was good but not great. A lot of the ideas here have already snuck their way into the mainstream. It was probably revolutionary in its time, but I wouldn’t say it’s a must-read anymore.

53) The Millionaire Booklet

This one’s by Grant Cardone and likely my best discovery this year. The guy’s a great mentor, especially in a world lacking good role models for entrepreneurs. It’s not too long, so I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a quick read.

54) Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur

This is a short book from Derek Sivers. I’m not sure how to describe this except ‘ehhhh…’. Maybe I’m not much a Derek Sivers guy.

55) Scaling Up

Didn’t like it. I don’t think I’m at the stage of business where I’ll find this useful. It seems targeted at bigger businesses, and I might need to read previous books in the series to get more use out of this. Listening to the audio version didn’t quite do it for me either–if I do revisit it I’ll likely read the print/Kindle version.

56) Be Obsessed or Be Average

Another great book by Grant Cardone. The main idea here: screw what other people say. Screw the people who say you work too hard or are too obsessed. Go for it. Be obsessed. This was a good kick-you-in-the-ass book to read.

57) The 10X Rule

Grant Cardone appears once again with a fantastic book. This was the first book I read for him. As a tip, you’ll notice that the print and audio versions differ slightly–he’s more brutal in the audiobook.

58) Good to Great

Classic business book. A little bit overhyped, but it had some good bits on company profiles and what makes a great company. Funnily enough, some of the ‘great’ companies turned out to be not so great, but still a very good read for entrepreneurs.

Everything Else (Mostly Knowledge-heavy Books)

59) The Inevitable

This book sets out a few predictions for the future. I was a bit skeptical at first, but it’s reasonably well put together. It does, however, fall back on a recurring theme of a ‘Global Library’ or ‘One-Mind’. Pretty good book nevertheless — would recommend.

60) Cosmosapiens

This might just be the best book of the year. If you’re into science, this is a must. It tosses in everything from anthropology, evolutionary biology, cosmology — and it will obliterate everything you thought you knew about science. I’ll warn you — this is fairly long and goes into quite a bit of detail, but it’s worth it.

61) The Hero With a Thousand Faces

I’ve been meaning to read this for a while, but upon doing so, I think it was a bit above my level. It was long and difficult to understand. I know it had some good concepts inside, but it didn’t quite do it for me. I’ll pass on this one.

62) Evolution 2.0

This was an excellent book by Perry Marshall. I actually did an interview with him that you can watch here. This book talks about evolution, and how the way most of us understand it is outdated and misinformed. This isn’t to say evolution itself is wrong, but rather the way most of us learn it is very much false and misleading. Trust me on this one — take a look at the book before you jump to conclusions.

63) Dianetics

I got a lot of flak for reading this, but I wanted to investigate Scientology for a bit. Without going into too much detail, it’s weird, but it’s not completely crackpot. The stuff inside reminds me of what you might find in New Age philosophy. It’s probably flawed, but if the model works for you, it works — whether it’s true or not.

64) On Liberty

This is a classic everyone should read. A basic tenet of the book is that we need to give everyone a chance to speak — even if we find their opinions repulsive. Thinking about it today, it used to be the case that the government would limit our speech, but it seems that these days, society has taken that mantle by shaming dissenting views rather than debating them.

65) Foundations of Eastern Civilizations

This is from the Great Courses Series. This was really long, and it’s basically about China and its history. I read this before I headed there this year, and it helped me understand a lot of what I was seeing. It’s a good chronology of China’s history.

66) Emerson, Thoreau, and the Transcendentalist Movement

Another picking from the Great Courses Series. I love transcendentalism, Emerson, and Thoreau, and I wanted to understand more on this. This is some really interesting groundbreaking stuff from history, and you start to appreciate its influences on today. As you read more, you start seeing the dots between this and Eastern philosophy/stoicism connect. I highly recommend this.

67) Books That Have Made History: Books That Can Change Your Life

This goes through a number of influential books from history and provides a summary for each. I found this quite a useful way to discover what I wanted to read. Overall, it’s quite well put together.

68) The Tao of Seneca

This is a reading of Seneca’s Letters to Lucilius. It’s great stuff, but you’re better off reading the letters directly rather than listening to the audio. The language and ideas here get very complex, so much so that you need to cool off and meditate on it for awhile. Again, great stuff, but read — don’t listen — to it.

69) The Bhagavad Gita

This was really good. It’s a classic Indian religious text with some very good wisdom inside. I went over some parts a few times–it’s a great book that may blow your mind.

70) Dumbing Us Down

It talks about the history of American education and why it’s so awful. Amusingly, it’s written by a teacher who won some prestigious teaching award — basically a huge one-finger salute to the system they were once in. If you’re considering homeschooling or just want to get educated on education, I highly recommend this.

71) Outliers

This book is bullshit. It’s one of those victim-mentality, privilege-promoting books. Malcolm Gladwell cherry-picks stories and presents it as research to promote what’s essentially a destructive philosophy to have. Yes, some have setbacks in life. No, the philosophy in this book does not help.

72) My Big TOE

This book is crazy. It’s about a guy tripping on acid who comes up with the idea that we’re all living in a virtual reality. It sounds whack, but it provides some salient points. He presents an entire framework for how the world works. Crazy read, but go for it.

And with that, we’re done!

Again, if you’re like to check out my in-depth book reviews, you can do so here. Happy reading.

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."